Major League Baseball had never before experienced a November quite like the one that just passed.
Leading into the lockout, clubs and mostly star-level players engaged in a frenzy of free-agent deals worth $1.94 billion, securing certainty before the uncertainty of the weeks and months ahead. For comparison, there had never been $1 billion spent on contracts in November.
While we wait for labor talks to advance, what can we make of some of the most interesting signings to date?
The better fit in Toronto?
Robbie Ray (five years, $115 million with the Seattle Mariners) and Kevin Gausman (five years, $110 million with the Toronto Blue Jays) agreed to nearly identical contracts last week. The narrative around both pitchers is also similar: Each emerged in a big way in 2021 after up-and-down careers so far.
They've enjoyed about the same level of career performance. Gausman owns a career ERA- of 95, while Ray's is slightly better at 92 (ERA- adjusts for ballpark and run environments, with 100 signifying league average - lower is better). They each induced swings and misses at a 15% rate and had similar command and strikeout numbers.
They also have about the same amount of mileage. Ray just turned 30 on Oct. 1, and Gausman will turn 31 on Jan. 6. The latter has an extra season in the majors and 142 extra innings on his arm (1,177 to 1,035 for Ray).
But Gausman owns a few advantages over Ray when projecting future performance.
For starters, Gausman is more consistent. Though his ERA has fluctuated like Ray's, his FIP has been more stable. Over the last three seasons, Gausman recorded a sub-4.00 FIP every year, while Ray did it only once.
Since 2019, Gausman owns a 3.30 FIP (19th in MLB among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched). Ray ranks 96th with a 4.29 FIP, a metric that considers walks, strikeouts, and home runs allowed and is scaled to be similar to ERA.